The Top Secret Reason that Executives Keep in their Hearts for Embarking on Strategic Planning
Why is effective strategic planning critical to nonprofit executives? Because of what happens to the board. Bold processes move boards toward greater engagement, understanding of their role, and effectiveness. Plus, they set the board’s efforts in the right direction–working on the strategy.
Let me give you an example . . .
We were in the midst of a strategy decision session in a full board room overlooking Tampa. The walls were plastered with charts and post-it notes. I stopped the session and gave the board a vaccine.
No, they didn’t roll up their sleeves to get swabbed and needled.
Instead, I held up three dinner napkins. The first paper, the second a practical everyday cotton plaid, and the final antique linen. “Which do you prefer?” I asked.
Twenty-eight eyes stared. Brows raised. Mouths open. I had their full attention.
I’d been with them 90 minutes and making significant progress—until this odd moment.
I answered for them, “It doesn’t matter.”
They laughed when they heard my explanation. The napkins were an example of the tendency of nonprofit boards to micromanage. In the future, whenever their discussions wandered into committee or staff work, I encouraged them to ask each, “Are we talking napkins here?” The question would serve as a quick reminder to return to thinking about the nonprofit’s most pressing issues instead of tactics.
This mid-session inoculation was an overt lesson.
It’s only one example of what might be done to improve your relationship with your board during the strategy process. When I pioneered my strategic planning approach at a major nonprofit, we realized that the world’s most effective strategy wouldn’t launch them to the next level unless the board aligned behind it.
The strategy development process offers a super opportunity to shape your nonprofit’s future and your leaders who will guide you to that future. You can help your board be better leaders and get ahead of the game by leading robust strategic planning processes at your nonprofit.